Mark 15:17
The scene, the courtyard of the governor's residence; the actors, the Roman soldiery and the Son of God; and the awful fate that awaited the Sufferer, render this mockery one of the most impressive incidents in human history. It was deliberate, brutal, and inhuman.

I. WHAT IT WAS IN HIM THAT WAS MOCKED. The crown and the purple and the sham homage are interpreted by the cry, "Hail, King of the Jews!"

1. It was his kingly pretensions they ridiculed. So the Jews had laughed to scorn his prophetic office. To those Roman soldiers, impressed with the grandeur of the power they themselves represented, the claim to be king of a small and subject land like Palestine was very petty. They could afford, so they thought, to laugh at it; even as Pilate was not afraid to have released him who preferred it.

2. But even more did they despise his title as a theocratic King. How far these citizens of the empire of law were from realizing the true character of the kingdom of righteousness! Had he even been recognized by the Jews themselves as their ruler, the nation was too small, too insignificant in a political or military point of view, to be of any consequence. There was no suspicion in their minds of danger to the Roman empire, or of the influence which his moral and spiritual character was to wield in the new ages of the world. It is, although they knew it not then, by virtue of this same moral majesty and power that he, in turn, has become the Conqueror of mankind, and is maintaining and extending his sway in regions where mouldering ruins and obsolete statutes are all that remain to witness to Rome's vanished greatness. It is the mockers themselves that are now ridiculous.

II. HOW MEN MAY MOCK HIM STILL. There is a feeling of human tenderness that is outraged as we imagine the meek Sufferer amidst the brutal throng. But the true sentiment that ought to be awakened is that which concerns the principles of righteousness and truth, of which he was the embodiment and representative. It is for them he would have us solicitous even to jealousy. Men still wound and mock Christ:

1. When they reader to him a merely nominal homage. "When we pervert the truth of the Word for our own evil ends, we scourge the Son of man; when to justify our evils we fabricate a system of ingenious error, and thus exalt our own wisdom above the wisdom of Jesus, we plait a crown of thorns and put it on his head; when we substitute our own righteousness for the righteousness of Christ, we clothe him with a purple robe; when we are inwardly worshippers of self and outwardly worshippers of the Lord, our worship of him is a mocking salutation of 'Hail, King of the Jews!' while every presumptuous sin we commit is a stroke inflicted on the Son of man" (W. Bruce).

2. When they ignore the moral nature of his power, relying on material and external means instead of spiritual. When they use the methods of business in a business spirit, or even the arts of diplomacy, to advance his kingdom. So men clothe Christ in the insignia of Herod. "The kingliest King was crowned with thorns!

3. When they would accept the advantages of his kingdom without observing its conditions. As when persons profess to enjoy the preaching and ordinances of the gospel, but do not carry its doctrines into practice; or when they are "straightway offended" at the tribulations and privations which true discipleship involves. - M.

And they clothed Him with purple and platted a crown of thorns.
Among the Babylonians and Persians it was customary on a certain feast to bring forth a malefactor from the prison, to place him on a throne, adorned with the royal insignia, to treat him with homage and honour, give him a splendid banquet, and then tear off his crown and royal apparel, scourge him, and put him to death by burning him alive. In Aricia, the priest, king for the year, was anciently sacrificed annually, but afterwards a slave was taken and adorned with royal and priestly ornaments for a few days, and treated with all reverence, and then was stripped and put to death. Throughout the heathen world, at midwinter, it was customary to thus give a short-lived dignity to some person, who was afterwards despoiled of his splendour and put to death, and this custom lingered on in a modified form in Europe, and at Twelfth Night Epiphany kings and queens were installed. Even in Mexico, when discovered and invaded by the Spaniards, a somewhat similar usage was found. A young man for a whole year was treated with homage, and given everything he desired, and then was suddenly despoiled and put to death. Haman, when he desired the royal apparel for himself, and the royal steed, had little idea that he was seeking a brief glory which would end in the gallows, just like the annual exaltation and execution of the Sagan, as he was called. The Romans kept their Saturnalia when the slaves took their masters' places, and were dressed in the best robes, and banqueted at their tables, whilst their lords served them. And then, in a night, all was changed, and the slave was subjected to the rod and bondage. The soldiers were wont to keep their Saturnalia, and knew all about the custom of dressing up a victim as a king, then disrobing him and putting him to death, and now they practised this on Jesus. Their act was not one prompted by a sudden fancy. It was a thing to which they were either themselves accustomed, or knew of it as a rite still in use. They regarded Jesus as a victim, and as a victim they treated Him to this short honour; but they did it, for all that, in mockery.

(S. Baring Gould, M. A.)

We usually think of it as with an Eastern diadem; but it was far more probably in imitation of the victor's wreath, which the emperor of the time was so fond of wearing, as the statues of Liberius abundantly testify. One of the soldiers must have run into the garden of the palace, or down the rocky valley hard by, and gathered a handful of thorny bramble; of what kind it was, has been often disputed. Those who thought most of the infliction of pain fixed on an Acanthus, with long spikes that sting as well as prick; others, who saw in the crowning more of mockery than cruelty, chose the Nebk — the Spina Christi — which, with its pliant twigs and bright ivy-like leaves, best recalls the Imperial wreath. Whichever it was, it is enough for us to feel, as an evidence of the restitution wrought by the Incarnation, that what sprang from the ground as a curse on Adam's transgression, was woven into a crown, and worn by Christ.

(H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

And thus, as the curse began in thorns (Genesis 3:18), it ended in thorns.


Thorns and briars were the curse of the earth, sent because of man's disobedience, and after his expulsion from Paradise. There is, therefore, a symbolical propriety in Christ assuming a crown of thorns. He who had come to undo the fault of Adam, to take away its consequences, takes to His head the symbol of the evil brought on the earth, and bears it on His temples...God of old likened the law which He gave to Israel to a thorn hedge enclosing His people. Christ has come to take away the law of ordinances which tore and tortured the Jewish people, and He takes its symbol, the thorny circle, and is crowned with it...The thorn has also the symbolic meaning of sin, and a dry thorn was regarded as the symbol of a sinner (Ezekiel 2:3, 6)...A thorn is symbolical, not of sin only, but of mockery. As the thorn enters into the flesh and works itself deeper in, and rankles there, causing intolerable pain, and can only with the greatest difficulty be extracted, so is it with the stabbing word of sarcasm — it pierces deep into the heart, and festers there.

(S. Baring Gould, M. A.)

The thorn chaplet was a triumphal crown. Christ had fought with sin from the day when he first stood foot to foot with it in the wilderness, up to the time when He entered Pilate's hall, and He had conquered it. As a witness that He had gained the victory, behold, sin's crown seized as a trophy! What was the crown of sin? Thorns. But now Christ has spoiled sin of its richest regalia and He wears it Himself. Glorious Champion, all hail!

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

In the thorn crown I see a mighty stimulus.

1. To fervent love. Can you see Christ crowned with thorns, and not be drawn to Him?

2. To repentance. Can you see your best-beloved put to such shame, and yet hold truce or parley with the sins which pierced Him. It cannot be.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Ofttimes I have seen the blackthorn growing in the hedge all bristling with a thousand prickles, but right in the centre of the bush have I seen the pretty nest of a little bird. Why did the creature place its habitation there? Because the thorns become a protection to it, and shelter it from harm. And to you I would say — Build your nests within the thorns of Christ. It is a safe place for sinners. Neither Satan, sin, nor death can reach you there. And when you have done that, then come and crown His sacred head with other crowns. What glory does He deserve? What is good enough for Him? If we could take all the precious things from all the treasuries of monarchs, they would not be worthy to be pebbles beneath His feet. If we could bring Him all the sceptres, mitres, tiaras, diadems, and all other pomp of earth, they would be altogether unworthy to be thrown in the dust before Him. Wherewith shall we crown Him? Come, let us weave our praises together, and set our tears for pearls, our love for gold. They will sparkle like so many diamonds in His esteem, for He loves repentance, and He loves faith. Let us make a chaplet with our praises, and crown Him as the laureate of grace. Oh, for grace to do it in the heart, and then in the life, and then with the tongue, that we may praise Him forever who bowed His head to shame for us.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Mother's Treasury.
When John Huss, the Bohemian martyr, was brought out to be burnt, they put on his head a triple crown of paper, with painted devils on it. On seeing it he said, "The Lord Jesus Christ for my sake wore a crown of thorns. Why should not I then for His sake wear this light crown, be it ever so ignominious? Truly I will do it and that willingly." When it was set upon his head, the bishop said, "Now we commend thy soul to the devil." "But I," said Huss, lifting up his eyes to heaven, "do commit my spirit into Thy hands. O Lord Jesus Christ, to Thee I commend my spirit, which Thou hast redeemed!" When the fagots were piled up to his very neck, the Duke of Bavaria was officious enough to desire him to abjure. "No," said Huss, "I never preached any doctrine of any evil tendency, and what I have taught with my lips I now seal with my blood."

(Mother's Treasury.)

First, the cruel coronation is set before us; secondly, the abjects exulting over their supposed victim, mocking Him and hailing Him with the supposition that He only pretended to be a king; but we cannot stop there — we must go on to notice His exaltation in consequence, and look to Him where He is.

I. I was led to the first statement from the circumstance of the rejoicings in the week that is past, on account of its being coronation week, or coronation day. "Well," I said in my own soul, as I turned over the leaves of my Bible," every day of my life, God helping me, shall be a coronation day. He must be crowned Lord of all. But mark, in His official character He must be crowned cruelly with thorns first. Thorns were the symbol of the curse. When God pronounced a curse upon creation, in consequence of man's fail, it was said, "Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee." Not a few, yea, probably, all of God's saints have had to experience that there are thorns in their path, that there are thorns around them, that there are thorns in their choicest gardens, perhaps, in their families, in their children; that there are thorns in their most pleasant circumstances, that there are thorns in their most prosperous businesses, that there are thorns in their fondest hopes; but none among them, that I have ever heard of, have been crowned with thorns. I sometimes flinch if a thorn only touches my finger — I sometimes flinch if a thorn seems threatening the destruction of my fond expectation. What should I do if I were brought to be crowned with them? That was only the honour belonging to the King of kings, who, though King of kings, was the Prince of sufferers; and this Prince of sufferers was crowned with that curse which belonged to poor, fallen, ruined sinners, and which must have crushed you and me into eternal destruction, if He had not been crowned with it. Have we never read, that He was "made a curse for us," because "it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." When this crown of thorns was placed upon the head of our blessed Lord, it was that as a crowned head He should proclaim the liberation of His people from the curse. As though He had said, "Plat it closely, take them all in, do not leave a single thorn for My bride, do not leave a single point that shall be experienced, in a judicial sense, for any that the Father gave Me; plat it thicker, plat it higher, lay it heavier, that I may endure all." And why? Because He loved His Church, and would put away the curse, and secure the blessing of His Father upon them, and at least welcome them home with the very appellation of blessing, "Come, ye blessed of My Father."

II. LET US ADVANCE TO TAKE A VIEW OF THESE ABJECTS, THAT WERE EXULTING IN HIS SUFFERINGS. Are there not many such mockers now? But just look for a moment at the characters set forth here, as the abjects that mocked Him, "What!" say you, "are we to count chief priests and scribes among the abjects?" I do so always and among the very worst of abjects. What was Pilate? an abject. What were the priests, that prompted and goaded the people to cry, "Away with Him, away with Him." They were all abjects, decided mockers of Christ. And yet these abjects did not like to go forward in a party by themselves, but must summon the other abjects to do so for them. Now look for a moment how Christ is mocked, in the present day, with all the gaudy show, with all the mimicry of expressions in honour of Him, in which the heart does not go, with all the superstitious ceremonies and abominable idolatries that are palmed upon men under the name of Christianity! But you will observe, that amidst all this insult and mockery, which was heaped upon Jesus when He was upon earth, by these abjects, yet they were obliged to honour Him as King, and they cried out, though they only meant it in mockery, "Hail, King of the Jews." Now pause here for a moment, just to ask the question, "How do I honour Him?" Are we really honouring Him as our King? or are we fleeing from Him, as His disciples did amidst His sufferings.

III. THIS WILL LEAD ME TO SAY A FEW WORDS ABOUT HIS PRESENT EXALTATION. Now this present exaltation, I am told, is "at the right hand of the Majesty on high," where He is enthroned in glory.

(J. Irons, M. A.)

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